Top 5 Tips for College Grads Entering the Working World

1) Build a Relationship With Your Boss:

Like it or not, no single individual has a greater impact on your career future than your direct supervisor. So, how do you get on their good side from the start? Managers want to feel that you truly care, and that you are "in it with them" as a team. Bring your boss solutions, not problems. When a problem arises, take initiative to consider what alternatives are available. Don't just throw the problem on their desk and have them figure it out. Always ask your boss for advice on what you or the company could do better. Offer to stay late for projects, even if they might not be your responsibility. Amazingly, many Americans rush out the door at 4:59 without even saying "Goodnight."

2) Display Professionalism and Maturity:

Unfortunately, the immature stereotype of young professionals does present a common barrier to advancement. Often, how you respond to adversity in a situation defines your professional maturity. A young professional views a mistake as a catastrophe, while a mature professional considers it a bump in the road. A young professional is quick blame to others, while a mature professional takes responsibility, and asks how a team can work better together in the future. There will always be differences of opinion on how best to do things in an organization, but they shouldn't escalate to confrontation. Tact, diplomacy, and rational adult conversation should reign.

3) Find a Mentor Within the Company/Industry:

Take advice from someone who has succeeded, and they will help you succeed. Makes sense, doesn't it? Some companies sponsor structured mentor programs, as do many professional organizations. Be sure to investigate these options first. Otherwise, you must rely on a more informal method of finding a mentor. You might believe these people are too busy, or too important to talk to you. However, most people want to share their secrets to success with someone who really wants to listen. They also understand mentoring helps contribute to the future success of the company by helping to develop other young leaders. Besides, they probably had a mentor, too.

4) Undertake a Strategic Development Plan:

It's never too early to start thinking about where your current job will take you. Understand typical advancement paths from your position, and what training and development is needed for advancement. Invest in yourself and learn from colleagues, books, seminars, and professional organizations. Try to identify your niche or area of specialization within a company or industry that will be in demand in the future. Where do you want to be in 2 years, or 5 years? You must take develop your own strategic game plan, and hold yourself accountable.

5) Avoid Dangerous Pitfalls:

A recent study by Harvard University showed that for every firing due to failure to perform, there are two firings due to personality conflicts within a team. There could be temptations to mislead a customer to get one more sale, or hide a mistake from management. Internet and e-mail abuse is still a widespread problem. Further, the threat of sexual harassment is real. Often, the intent of the offender may not necessarily be malicious, but rather they don't realize the difference between what is appropriate in the workplace vs. a "night out at the clubs." It is imperative to understand the rules of the game, and abide by those rules, to avoid irreparable damage to your career from the start.

Andy Masters is a nationally recognized speaker from St. Louis, and is author of the newly released book Life After College: What to Expect and How to Succeed in Your Career. Andy earned an M.A.-Human Resources Development and an M.A.-Marketing from Webster University. Visit or e-mail for more information on the book, seminars, and additional resources.

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